Butler player, coach move on after representing school at hockey showcase event
Even though it did not win a title, Team Pittsburgh's run at the America's High School Showcase was a success.
That's because the USA Hockey national high school tournament, hosted in Pittsburgh by the PIHL for the fifth consecutive season, gave all of the players plenty of exposure to college and junior hockey team scouts.
Team Pittsburgh, comprising mostly seniors from PIHL teams, went unbeaten through its first four games, but fell to California, 3-0, in the tournament's semifinals.
“It wasn't that much of a disappointment. My coaching philosophy and Team Pittsburgh's philosophy is about the exposure and development of our players. We accomplished that,” said Team Pittsburgh coach Mike Guentner, who recently stepped down as Butler's coach. “We went 20 for 20. All 20 of our players had at least one conversation with an interested scout. That's the goal.”
Butler's Troy Double was one of those players. The senior scored two goals and added four assists in five games for Team Pittsburgh at the tournament.
“It was a great honor representing Butler and being coached by my high school coach,” Double said. “Our team was really talented. We had really good chemistry because most of us played together before with the Pittsburgh Viper Stars. It was fun playing in this tournament. It's an experience I'll remember for the rest of my life.”
Double didn't have to wait long for an offer to continue his hockey career. The Pittsburgh Vengeance, the area's only NA3HL Tier-III junior A team, extended a tender offer to him.
“I talked to a few scouts there,” Double said. “I got tendered by the Vengeance. I am still making up my mind what I want to do.”
It's no coincidence that the Vengeance's newest assistant coach is Guentner, who stepped down from the Butler post after two successful seasons.
“Obviously, I am very familiar with Troy and I knew exactly what he could do for Team Pittsburgh,” Guentner said. “It's nice to see he can elevate his game when he's around better talent on his team and around very talented opponents. Basically, he put up his regular numbers against elite talent. That pretty much says to the world he has the stuff to play at the next level.
“It's not a surprise to see that teams are interested in him. He'd be a nice addition for the Vengeance moving forward. Ultimately, it's his choice which route he wants to go.”
The Pittsburgh Vengeance offers players extremely competitive hockey as they continue to climb the junior hockey ladder or transition to college hockey. It helps develops coaches, too. When the opportunity arose to join the program, Guentner could not refuse it.
“It's not often you hear about a high school coach in Western Pennsylvania leaving on good terms. I loved coaching Butler. At time, it was a dream job working with the team I once played for,” he said. “It came down to me practicing what I preach. I wasn't sure how much better I could become as a coach staying at the high school level. I want pursue a coaching career and, ultimately, I want to be an NCAA coach.
“The Vengeance is in my backyard, so that's a great opportunity for me. Butler will be in great hands. Pat Hammonds will take the program to a higher echelon than I could. He is a long-term solution there.”
Nevertheless, Double and Guentner wrapped up their high school careers with Team Pittsburgh. The squad cruised past its first four opponents, 33-10. However, California silenced the team in the semifinals.
“California had a great team. We just couldn't find the back of the net,” Guentner said. “We honestly felt we truly got beat by a team that was a step faster and got a couple more bounces than we did. We felt the better team had a chance to advance.
“This tournament is a great thing for hockey. It's an opportunity to look at what other parts of the country are doing to grow the game. California is a great example. For a scout, it's always worthwhile to buy the access pass to watch the games or show up in person. There is always going to be an elite player there that can make somebody's team better. It's definitely worth the price.”
Double was thrilled to participate in the games as well as the team-building outings.
“It was a great experience. We didn't really know what we were going to be up against,” he said. “It was fun being with the team and spending time together away from the rink, too.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.